Tournaments | Story | 9/26/2014

Team Citius' star in the making

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

TOMBALL, Texas – The 15-year-old high school sophomore from Houston slipped on his neon green/yellow molded turf cleats and looked around at his Team Citius Rawlings teammates that were rapidly filling one of the dugouts on Field 4 at the beautifully upgraded and designed Premier Baseball of Texas facility here.

A highly ranked, regarded and respected 2017 outfielder at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, Ronnie Washington is uncomfortable talking about himself. He does, however, love to talk about his teammates who are wearing the Team Citius Rawlings uniforms and who will compete alongside of him at this weekend’s PG WWBA South Qualifier.

“I’ve played with just about every single one of them before; I love these guys and we’re real good friends,” Ronnie Washington said early Friday evening, flashing braces on his teeth while sporting a wide smile. “They’re great people and hard workers and they’re just hilarious. They’re really funny to be around; they’re always making jokes.”

When asked what he enjoys most about competing at an important event like the PG WWBA South Qualifier – the championship team earns a paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., at the third week in October – Ronnie quickly returned to the concept of “team.”

“I just like being out here with my friends and playing the game as a team,” he said. “You can’t do it by yourself; there are no superstars out here. You just have to come out here as one team and we need each other out there. We’re one team.”

There is one part of that last statement that one of Ronnie Washington’s coaches at this tournament completely disagrees with.

“He’s a superstar,” Omar Washington said. “You better get some shades because he’s got a really bright future.”

Omar Washington – Omar and Ronnie are not related – is the founder of the Team Citius, which fields teams in South Texas, Central Texas, North Texas and New York state. Team Citius Rawlings is a group that was put together with players from the South Texas, Dallas and Houston areas.

Team Citius is in a working partnership with Premier Baseball of Texas and its beautiful facility, and is acting as an unofficial host for the PG WWBA South Qualifier.

 “We’ve got some kids involved in football – everybody out here does – but we’ve got a good team,” Omar said. “We’ve got a lot of power and some big arms and we’re going to be able to really compete. We have more kids that we could have brought in but we would have had to bring them in from out-of-state and we didn’t feel like we needed to do that.”

Team Citius Rawlings, which indentifies Tomball as its base of operations, introduced itself to the rest of the 56-team PG WWBA South Qualifier field somewhat rudely in its opener Friday, blanking Houston entry HTB, 7-0.

Sergio Macias (2016, Laredo, Texas), Alex Jackson (2016, Double Oak, Texas) and Ryan Gonzalez (2015, Corpus Christi, Texas) each had two hits to pace a 10-hit attack – Macias and Jackson each doubled – and Marshall Skinner (2016, Cypress, Texas) drove in a pair of runs. Right-handers Hunter Edwards and Tyler Follis, and lefty Ryan Burks combined to pitch the seven- inning, 10 strikeout, three-hit shutout.

Ronnie Washington singled, walked twice and scored a run in the win.

Team Rawlings Texas Bandits Black 17u is also Omar Washington’s direction and it lost its tournament opener playing at the same time as Citius on an adjoining field at Premier Baseball of Texas.

Team Citius Rawlings boasts a 20-man roster with 13 prospects ranked in the top-600 nationally in their respective classes – 2016 outfielder Jacob Parrott from Lucas, Texas is ranked 312th and 2016 third baseman Ezekiel Bear from Cypress comes in at No. 404.

Top-500 2015 left-hander/outfielder Gabriel Constantine from McKinney, Texas, has committed to Wichita State and top-500 2015 middle-infielder Drew Jackson from Double Oak, Texas, is a Pensacola State recruit.

“Off and on, all of these kids have played together at one time or another,” Omar Washington said, adding that he and the players are looking forward to playing for a chance to earn that paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship.

“We’re excited about that it’s something our guys come out and set their sights on; it’s important to these kids. It’s high visibility (in front of the scouts) down there in Jupiter, obviously – when I went down there with my son there was something like 288 scouts at one game; who does that? Perfect Game does such a great job for these kids.”

This brought the conversation back to Ronnie Washington, a University of Texas commit ranked No. 1 nationally in Perfect Game’s first class of 2017 rankings.

“That’s been a dream of mine since I was 5, or whatever,” Ronnie Washington said of his commitment to the Longhorns and not about his No. 1 national ranking. “I used to love watching the football games and the baseball games and them going to the (College) World Series (in 2014) and making it that far was just icing on the cake.”

Incredibly, this is Ronnie’s 14th Perfect Game event since July 2013 – that includes a pair of PG Super25 tournaments this summer – and the accolades have piled up. He was named to the all-tournament team at six tournaments – including last year’s PG WWBA South Qualifier – and was included on the Top Prospect List at the three PG showcases he attended this year: the PG Sunshine South Showcase, the PG Junior National Showcase and the PG Underclass All-American Games.

PG scouting reports from those showcases talk about Ronnie’s “peerless bat speed and power for his age”, a prospect that shows “exceptional strength” and one who “got in a groove in batting practice and made the part look very small.” All three of his showcase appearances ended with a 10.0 grade, the highest rewarded at a PG showcase.

“It’s always fun to compete,” Ronnie said, “and the better the competition the better (the experience). Every one of these tournaments is about picking up the little things – it’s all about the little things. Anything you can pick up from any game, any inning, any pitch, you need to pick it up and take it to the future; whatever I can do to get better, that’s the goal.”

Ronnie Washington loves to talk about his teammates, and for good reason. They’re all his friends and, like he was quick to point out, one player cannot go out and win a baseball game on his own. Omar Washington, on the other hand, loves to talk about young Ronnie.

“He’s got power and the skills and the size you don’t usually see in such a young guy; it’s like Bo Jackson on the baseball field,” he said. “You see a batter that can hit the ball out to right field on a line drive and turn around and hit an inside fastball on a line drive in the gap.

“He’s 15 years old and all you can say is ‘Wow. Is he 15?” Omar concluded. “He’s a special kid, he’s got a bright future and his better days are still ahead of him. And as good as he is today I think in three or four years we could be talking about the best player in the whole country, the first pick overall in the draft. He has that potential; we’re excited about him.”

Just don’t ask Ronnie about it. He’d rather talk about the guy sitting next to him in the dugout.

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